(AP) — The first person in Oregon to be diagnosed with the new coronavirus has been discharged from the hospital more than two months after being admitted, the hospital said Tuesday.
Hector Calderon spent many days in the intensive care unit, where he was sedated and intubated, before he recovered enough to be transferred to a skilled nursing facility on Monday, Kaiser Permanente Northwest said in a statement released Tuesday.
Calderon, who is a janitor at an elementary school in Lake Oswego, tested positive for COVID-19 in late February. He was listed as the state’s first confirmed coronavirus case on Feb. 28, prompting the school where he worked to close for several days,
In addition to being the state’s first confirmed case, he was the second patient in the U.S. determined to have contracted the virus through community spread and not from direct contact with another infected person or from travel to a country with an outbreak.
Calderon was also one of the first patients in the nation to receive the drug Remdesivir, a drug that studies show shortens recovery time for hospitalized patients.
“Thank you so much for all your hard work and dedication and all your time for me,” a slightly breathless Calderon said in a video clip provided to the media by Kaiser Permanente. “My family and I thank you for everything and God bless you.”
Chad Cabe, an ICU charge nurse, visited Calderon every chance he got, and said he “gave him a pep talk and said a little prayer for his recovery – even when he was sedated and intubated.” For motivation, Cabe promised Calderon a mariachi band serenade when he was better.
Video provided by the hospital showed Calderon waving and holding his wife’s hand as medics rolled him down the hallway through a gauntlet of clapping and cheering doctors and nurses. Calderon is then loaded into an ambulance for transport to a skilled nursing facility as a mariachi band plays. He is holding a sign in his lap that reads, in Spanish, “Thank God for giving me a new life.”
Calderon’s long-term prognosis is still unclear, doctors said. He needs to use oxygen when he exerts himself and he has been working to build back his strength, said Sahra Rahimtoola, one of his care providers.
“Our hope is that he will have a full recovery, but he still has some work to do and long-term prognosis is unknown since this is a new virus,” she said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.
The principal at Forest Hills Elementary School, where Calderon is a beloved staff member, celebrated his recovery in an email sent to parents and staff.
“We are so happy for Hector and his family and, so thankful to the heroic medical workers, and so grateful to be a part of this community,” wrote Principal Patrick Shuckerow.
Calderon’s family requested privacy while he recovers.